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How Alex Brightman Brought a Pansexual Beetlejuice to Life on Broadway

Alex Brightman gives the deadliest performance on Broadway — in a good way — in “Beetlejuice.” The big-budget musical adaptation of the 1988 film directed by Tim Burton has scored eight Tony nominations, including best actor. To play the frisky role, Brightman (“School of Rock”) dons Beetlejuice’s striped suit and an assortment of colorful wigs as he belts out ballads from the underworld. He spoke to Variety about resurrecting the character.

Were you inspired by Michael Keaton’s performance from the movie? 
I took nuts and bolts of what Michael Keaton did and used that as a launchpad to create something incredibly different. Also, I took a little bit from the “Beetlejuice” cartoon. It’s really fun when people can point that out. We’re doing an adaptation of “Beetlejuice” as a property.

What’s the secret to Beetlejuice’s hair?
Anxiety.

Is that really your hair?
I’m so glad you think it’s my hair. I will tell the wig department. It’s many, many different wigs that change throughout the show. I subtly and then not-so-subtly change colors. I go from green to purple to red to darker green to a more electric green, and they’re all different wigs. So I am constantly getting poked with bobby pins.

Are you wearing prosthetic teeth?
No. In Washington, D.C., where we took it out of town, I was wearing paint on my teeth. And it was deemed by the powers that be that the audiences found it a little gross.

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Do you wash the makeup off your face between performances?
I do, because I want to go out and get a coffee and not look nuts. Although it is New York City. Part of me wants to try it out, to see if I can go to Starbucks and if anybody bats an eye.

Do you see Beetlejuice as a hero or a villain?
The actor in me wants to say he’s not a villain, because I have to sympathize with my character to make him work. However, he is a bad guy. I think he is bad by nature of not knowing how to be good, because he has no heart and he has no soul. He’s lonely. He never knows his boundaries because he’s never had them before. It’s why he has no problem being attracted to everybody.

Has Beetlejuice always been bisexual — or maybe pansexual?
It wasn’t a discussion. It was written that way; he kisses Barbara, he kisses Adam [a married couple who die early in the show]. In the movie, he’s portrayed a little more predatorial. In this one, he’s just enamored with people. I’m loving it. People at the stage door especially have not been disappointed by that. They’ve been encouraged by the idea that this is a character who is very comfortable not only with who he is but with who everyone else is.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve been asked to sign at the stage door?
I have signed my fair share of body parts in “Beetlejuice” — foreheads, shoulders and other parts. I’m going to let everyone’s imagination run wild on that one.

Do you sign as your character?
One time I signed “Beetlejuice” three times on somebody’s forehead, which I can’t believe they asked me to do. What’s crazy about our stage door is half of them are dressed up as Beetlejuice. It’s this insane fan base, which I’m loving. I never want it to stop, and I’m looking forward to doing a Halloween performance. It’s going to be a sea of stripes.

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